Cultivating memory and commitment

Rome (NEV), 4th october 2023 – At the shrine of Our Lady of Porto Salvo, at 6pm, an ecumenical commemoration, ten years after the shipwreck in which 368 people died.

Martin Luther King said: ‘I don’t fear the cruelty of the bad but the silence over that of the good’. Looking at the history of this island, there are too many good people who have kept silent. But there are also those who have spoken and acted and some are here with us today’. These are some of the words of the liturgy written for the ecumenical ceremony which will take place on 3 October, at 6pm, in memory of the shipwreck ten years ago in which 368 people died.

The commemoration is being held jointly by the Parish of San Gerlando Lampedusa, the Archdiocese of Agrigento, the Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue and Mediterranean Hope – Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), with the participation of the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy, and will take place at the shrine of Our Lady of Porto Salvo.

The ceremony will be attended by Pastor Daniele Garrone, President of FCEI, Imam Keith Abedelhafid, UCOII, Monsignor Alessandro Damiano, Archbishop of Agrigento, Alessandra Trotta, Moderator of the Waldensian Board, with a testimony on humanitarian corridors, and Pastor Randy Mayer, of the United Church of Christ (Arizona, USA). At the beginning of the ecumenical celebration there will be a welcome greeting from Don Carmelo Rizzo, Parish Priest of Lampedusa, and a video message from Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

“Stories. Stories of life that, precisely because they are ‘of life’, have ended well,” we read in the booklet prepared to accompany the meeting.  “Those who lived them could tell their stories. On that 3rd October ten years ago – and that is why we are here – they ended tragically. We, believers, non-believers, those who believe differently, are here today to remember these stories. Cultivating memory is still today a precious vaccine against indifference and helps us, at a time so full of injustice and suffering, to remember that each of us has a conscience and can use it’.

The latter is a sentence by Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, which, explains Marta Bernardini, coordinator of Mediterranean Hope, the migrant and refugee programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, “we would like to accompany us in this ecumenical commemoration of 3rd October 2023. Memory is a powerful antidote against indifference and we are surrounded by indifference today. Perhaps not today, when authorities and journalists around the world have remembered what happened here, in Lampedusa, on 3 October 2013. But in these ten years, who has remembered the 368 people who were killed by forcible displacement, because there was no one to rescue them, by the unjust laws conceived and written to stop desperate people fleeing wars, famine, persecution? And how?  Remembrance should not be an exercise in rhetoric but a human and civic duty, which keeps the conscience awake and – as Liliana Segre teaches us – helps us to fight a world full of injustice and suffering.  In our midst are the witnesses and survivors of that history’.

The liturgy was written by Paolo Naso and Peter Ciaccio, the musical accompaniment will be by Alberto Annarilli and Mario Vultaggio, with coordination by Marta Bernardini and Don Luca Camilleri, and artistic advice by Francesco Piobbichi.